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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Molly Payton

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Molly Payton

"If you want a clean slate, go fall in love with somebody else," Molly Payton sings in her distinctive crooning voice on '1972' - a song filled with frustration and acknowledgement of a relationship not working.

Though '1972' is just the second song ever released by Payton, following up 'No One Else' earlier in 2020, Payton first began writing music at age fourteen - and four years later, she's sharing her debut EP, 'Mess', which offers up three more songs (which were all produced alongside Dirty Hit's Oscar Lang).

After relocating from Auckland to London two years ago, Payton used those heightened emotions of excitement and loneliness to turn into material for the EP - which tells stories of relationships, growing up, and acts as a place for Payton to "get something off my chest."

MUST-LISTEN: '1972', 'Corduroy', 'Stickers On Your Skateboard'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Alexandra Savior, Stella Donnelly, Lana Del Rey, Julia Jacklin, Cameron Avery, Marlon Williams… and reminiscing the past while holding hands/paws with your dog.

COUP DE MAIN: "You're in love with my image, don't pretend that this is anything else," you sing on '1972'. Why do you think it's important that love goes beneath the surface-level versions that we present of ourselves?
MOLLY PAYTON: When I was younger I was with someone for a while and didn’t make the effort to really know them and figure them out, and I ended up kind of filling in the blanks based on photos and things that their friends had told me. It’s something I’ve seen a lot of my friends do as well and it always leads to some kind of messy ending because neither people involved end up being who the other person thinks they are. I think without being vulnerable to someone you care about, and vice versa, you’re only really loving a version of them that you’ve made up in your head.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
MOLLY: Honestly, who knows hahaha. Sometimes something just happens in my head and I’ll write a song in ten minutes. Sometimes I write about fifty versions of the same thing and end up scrapping it. These days I find if I push myself too hard to finish something (even if it ends up being great) I end up hating the song.

CDM: What was running through your mind while writing 'Stickers On Your Skateboard'?
MOLLY: I was sixteen, I’d just moved to London from New Zealand, and I was having the absolute Time Of My Life. I’d finally settled into a great group of friends and had made out with this guy a couple of times who I had a very big dramatic sixteen-year-old crush on. He and I are good friends now, so I see it as a very sarcastic fun song that picks up the mood at gigs, but when I wrote the line, "Can I be happy, well that’s up to you," I was most likely suffering over being left on read.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
MOLLY: I’d definitely say I write lyrics not poems. I love poetry and I really wanted to be a writer when I was younger, but I’ve realised that I can achieve so much more of an effect on people through music. I think it takes so much talent and life experience to write words that stand on their own and I don’t think I’m there yet.

CDM: I think 'Corduroy' is my favourite song on the EP, both musically and lyrically. "And you think that I find it easy to be happy. But I think I forgot what it's like to not be lonely." Why are the themes of happiness and loneliness something that you're so drawn to pulling from in your songwriting?
MOLLY: When I first moved to London I experienced this crazy combination of excitement and loneliness that I’d never felt before. Acting on those feelings fuelled a lot of really interesting relationships with people, which gave me a lot to write about.

CDM: What was it like working with Oscar Lang on producing the EP?
MOLLY: It was so fun! Oscar is probably the funniest and most entertaining person I know which made the idea of being in proper studios for the first time a little less daunting. He’s also a musical genius - he’s really good at finding the little things to add to a song that make it really special, like the sweet little piano part in ‘Corduroy’.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
MOLLY: I guess every time I write a new song it becomes my favourite just because of its relevancy to how I’m feeling at that time.

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
MOLLY: That’s a hard one because music is so based on personal preference - a song that I think is the best thing ever written might sound terrible to someone else. In terms of my own music though, I know that a song works when I can play it completely stripped back and it still sounds good.

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
MOLLY: I played the piano for around twelve years before I even touched a guitar or started singing - I think when I was fourteen I started trying to write classical piano music with my teacher. The first piece I finished with him was background music for this weird kids book about a duck and death becoming friends and I can still remember almost every note of it.

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
MOLLY: I don't know really! I never have that in mind when I’m writing songs because most of the time songwriting is just a way for me to get something off my chest. I guess I’d just like for the songs to be important to someone.

CDM: If M.O.L.L.Y. P.A.Y.T.O.N. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
My brain is  
nOt ready for an acronym this
L.Y. P.A.Y.T.O.N.

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?
MOLLY: Oops sorry that’s a secret, I don’t want to jinx anything.

CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
MOLLY: A new guitar. Mine is making weird noises and not in a cool shoegaze-y way.

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
MOLLY: 'Bennie And The Jets' obviously. Imagine all my soldiers yelling that banger as they ran into battle, it would be glorious.

CDM: What are your top five necessities for isolation/quarantine/lockdown?
MOLLY: My friend Sofia, my dog, Whisky, my friend Sofia, my mum (love you mum I’m sorry for finishing your chardonnay please forgive me).

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020… who are yours?
MOLLY: There are so many cool bands and musicians at the moment, I LOVE Happyness (they’re probably my favourite right now), (Sandy) Alex G, Trudy and the Romance, Drugdealer and Kikagaku Moyo to name a few. Also Oscar Lang's new EP 'Overthunk' is so so great and perfect if you need your spirits lifted in lockdown.

+ a bonus guest-question from fellow 2020 Must-Know Artist OSCAR LANG: If you had to pick between Bug (your dog) and cowboy boots, which one would you pick, and why cowboy boots?
MOLLY: I have this glorious pair of green snakeskin cowboy boots that I wore every day for about three months, and one time I left Bug alone with them and he went to town. Anyway, obviously I choose my dog over the cowboy boots, I'm not heartless, but oh boy did that test me.

Watch the '1972' music video below...

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